Everywhere you look these days, there’s a talented group of kids popping up in bluegrass music. They pick, they sing, and they’re all over YouTube. Some are more traditional, some are fabulous at the contemporary grass sound, and many mesh influences from a number of genres into their own unique style of acoustic music. North Carolina’s Moore Brothers Band falls into that last category. A three-piece group consisting of brothers Jacob (16) and Isaac (12) Moore and their friend Daniel Perry (20), they recently released their third album, I Wanna Sugar Baby.
The eight-track album is a bit short (coming in at about 26 minutes) but the band fits a whole lot of hot picking into it. Diffusion, a nicely performed upbeat instrumental written by Jacob, is perhaps the best showcase of the band’s musical skills. It’s an energetic, inventive acoustic jazz tune that particularly allows Jacob to step into the spotlight on both mandolin and fiddle. Jacob also composed Teeter, which leans closer to bluegrass territory thanks to some Tony Rice-inspired guitar from Isaac. However, if it is to be called bluegrass, it’s very progressive and could almost be called jamgrass. There’s no denying the musicians’ talent, however.
More familiar to most bluegrass fans will be a few Bill Monroe covers, though still with some strong progressive overtones. Can’t You Hear Me Calling is pretty straightforward, although it’s been updated with a somewhat awkward chord progression. Walk Softly has also been given a bit of a makeover, landing somewhere between Monroe, The Kentucky Headhunters, and Leftover Salmon (although some bluegrass fans might prefer leftover biscuits. Long live Allen Mills.).
The album is bookended by what are perhaps the two grassiest numbers on the albums. White Freightliner Blues was a good choice for an opener, especially with the pulsing, high-energy version here. The last track, a mid-tempo Sitting on Top of the World, isn’t quite as successful. The song itself is a bit of an odd choice for such a young vocalist, and it lacks the liveliness of most of the other songs.
Two originals round out the project. My Friend is a bluesy, sincere Gospel song, reflecting on Jesus’ continual presence in our lives. I Wanna Sugar Baby has a strong southern rock vibe. It’s a song about growing watermelons that the band seems to have a lot of fun with.
Though the Moore Brothers Band has continued to grow as instrumentalists and vocalists since the release of their first album in 2009, with I Wanna Sugar Baby, it still seems like they’re trying to find their own sound. This album leans heavily toward the far progressive side of bluegrass, and does quite well when it’s there, especially on the two instrumentals. However, it lacks a cohesive feel that more time and experience might bring the group. Nonetheless, it’s certainly exciting to see kids and young adults this invested in their music. Judging by the reaction so far, the Moore Brothers Band has a shot at a bright future.